This Employee Has to Go…Or do They? The Underlying Impact of an Unhealthy Employee Experience Culture

When I worked full-time in organizational development, I supported over 100 teams get back on track in times of overwhelming change, interpersonal tension, and incivility. In every one of those teams, there was someone (or a number of people) who were pointed out as “the problem”: “If only they left everything would be fine!” Sometimes they did…but things didn’t change magically overnight. Often times they weren’t going anywhere, and yet we had success turning things around.

Not only is it rare that an individual, as disruptive as their behaviour may be, cause all the problems. That they alone are the root of the issue. Are things in life usually that simple? (And if it was, I think we’d only have a few books on our shelves versus the 100+!)

Sure, employees engaging in disruptive behaviour require feedback and expectation clarification. Sometimes they were surprised (never having received direct feedback), other times they were defensive, other times saddened. Regardless, change on their part, 9.9 times out of 10, didn’t lead to an overnight turnaround.

So what else is going on? What we found was that in every team we needed to do an intervention with, there was an underlying problem with the employee experience.

By pointing fingers, we don’t address what is going to most help. And frankly, what likely contributed to the unhealthy behaviour in the first place.

We are starting to move away from talking about the (often) top-down theories of employee engagement to understanding the employee experience, which is a more holistic, employee-centred way of understanding the way an individual experiences the organization from before they onboard to when they exit (here is a great article to dig in further.) Just like we’re moving away from talking about customer service to the customer experience, we’re realizing the same is true for staff and leaders.

Companies that shift away from looking at micro problems, finger pointing, and top-down culture creation, to that of understanding how talent truly is their competitive advantage, in turn, co-create the ideal employee experience that retains the best people, fuels healthy collaborative cultures, sparks innovation and continuous improvement and better self-manages standards of behaviour.

What are some of the signs of how well your company or team is doing in the employee experience department? Here are four visible signs:

1. Quit or commit

Take stock of your revolving door. Discover how many people are getting a “refund” on their employee experience by quitting. Check out the positive flip side, how many are committing? How many give discretionary effort, time and ideas voluntarily for the betterment of their team, customers, projects and the long-term future of the organization?

2. Play games or play by the rules

People who do not play by the rules are telling you, “You know what, I don’t buy into it around here.” Or, “I have given more than I have gotten back so now I’m taking something back for me.” There are also people who say, “I want to improve things around here.” When they feel and experience that their ideas matter, their voice is heard and they are valued, they naturally want to make things better.

3. Complaints versus Compliments

A complaint is merely a poorly worded request. So, if folks are complaining, what are they asking you for? What is your culture lacking? Sure, some folks lean on the negativity side regardless, but if the employee experience was truly positive, there would be little to complain about and certainly, they wouldn’t have a captive audience or co-conspirators! Other teams, you’ll notice compliments and recognition are aplenty; individuals notice healthy, positive, helpful behaviours and aren’t hesitant to acknowledge it when they see it.

4. Early retirement or Lifer

Sure, we talk a lot about how many times we switch jobs in our lifetime (anywhere between 7 and 15 depending on the study), and how unlikely it is we’re going to retire from the first organization we join. However, it’s not the end of career retirement we’re worried about here’s. It’s folks being, “on the job retired”; you know, those individuals come in and do only the bare minimum. In contrast to employee experience individuals who feel so much love for the company, they go above and beyond without being asked or expected to. When people feel valued, visible and their efforts appreciated, of course, they’re more likely to give their job more “life”. The kind of Lifer you want around doesn’t just put in the time but gives the best of him or herself.

BTW, want a cool infographic? Grab it free on my website here. What are the other signs the employee experience needs work? Post below!

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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